Jan 23, 2008

Astounding story.

I really want to go to bed, but I just saw this story on the PBS Jewish Americans series, and I had to share this story.

On Radio WBAI in New York City during the 1968 teachers' strike when ethnic tensions soared between Jews and Blacks, Julius Lester was interviewing activist teacher Leslie Campbell and asked the teacher to read a certain poem by a 14-year-old black student. It read "Hey, Jew-boy with that yarmulke on your head/ you pale face Jew-boy, I wish you were dead./ I see you Jew boy/ now you can't hide/ I got a scope on you/ yeah, Jew-boy, you gonna die."Lester became famous and was noted as the most anti-Semitic man in the U.S. But then, Lester converted to Judaism years later. He taught Judaic studies. He's a lay leader in a local synagogue. He speaks of what is truly in my heart. It's fascinating how someone can go from one end to the other so swiftly, in almost one heartbeat.

How fascinating, nu?

I wish I had written down the entire portion of the poem they read. It was horribly vile, saying something along the lines of expressing that blacks had struggled for 400 years in the U.S., and the Jews had not. It was a fascinating time, the 1960s, for the Jewish and black communities. I wish I knew more. I'll always love the movie the "Hebrew Hammer" for its satirizing of the relationship, of course. But how fascinating for two peoples to come together, fall apart, and come together again, if only in spirit.

EDIT (01/24/2008): Since so many people were ending up on my page for the full text, I decided to search again. So I just found the (almost??) full text of the poem. I will paste it below. It's absolutely vile, in my opinion. Also, for video clips from the PBS series, please click here.

Hey Jew boy, with that yarmulka on your head
You palefaced Jew boy -- I wish you were dead.
I can see you Jew boy -- no, you can't hide,
I got a scoop on you -- yeh, you gonna die. ...
I'm sick of seeing in everything I do
About the murder of six million Jews;
Hitler's reign lasted only fifteen years. ...
My suffering lasted for over 400 years, Jew Boy. ...
When the UN made Israel a free independent state
Little 4- and 5-year-old boys threw hand grenades.
They hated the black Arabs with all their might,
And you, Jew boy, said itw as all right.
Then you came to America, land of the free,
And took over the school system to perpetuate white supremacy,
Guess you know, Jew boy, there's only one reason you made it --
You had a clean white face, colorless and faded.
I hated you, Jew boy, because your hang-up was the Torah,
And my only hang-up was my color.

3 comments:

JD said...

Julius Lester actually wrote a very engaging memoir about his journey into Judaism. It's called Lovesong: Becoming a Jew. It's a great read.

chaviva said...

JD: Hey, thanks. I did see that, and I *hope* to read it. It will be added to my growing list of books to read.

Thanks,
Chavi

Anonymous said...

Was Mr Lester's conversion process Halachically sound? Was it overseen by an Orthodox rabbinic body and Beit Dein?

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